Walmart opens new Urban Supercentre concept

New technology, pop-ups and third-party partners are being tested to create a more convenient shopping experience.

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Walmart Canada has opened the doors on a new concept it’s calling Urban Supercentre, where it is testing new ways to meet the current and emerging needs of its customers.

Located in Toronto, the retailer’s Stockyards location in the west-end of the city not only has changes to product displays, signage and floor plans to improve the shopping experience, but a number of other new concepts, technology and third-party partners.

One of the most notable elements of the location is Fast Lane, a new self-scanning option. Customers will scan items as they shop using the new My Walmart App, and receive a single barcode once they are done. That code is scanned at the Fast Lane section, automatically charging the credit card they have on file, with a staff member checking the receipt on their way out.

The self-scanning elements of Fast Lane are similar to a service it had been piloting that allowed customers to pay with their mobile device as they shopped to skip the checkout. That program was discontinued in the U.S. and replaced with one that had employees process purchases on the store floor and it was scaled back in Canada amid low consumer demand for the service.

Paula Bonner, SVP of format development at Walmart Canada, said in an email to strategy that other banners and markets, such as Sam’s Club and Walmart China, have actually been expanding their use of different scanning and checkout tools, and Walmart Canada has been learning from their executions. Bonner also said that Fast Lane was also one of several features in the new My Walmart App, which also offers digital coupons, store maps and location-specific deals.

The Urban Supercentre also features a dedicated Walmart.ca section, which will feature a rotating display of products that are otherwise only available online, as well as host pop-ups for online vendors. Staff on-site will also assist customers in making online orders, and the area also features an expanded order pick-up area.

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Bonner said the “pop-up”-style concept and its rotating selection is meant to “inspire” customers and go hands-on with products they wouldn’t otherwise be able to prior to purchase.

“Customers are looking for an integrated in-store and online experience,” she said. “Our job is to think ahead and test concepts that will enable a better shopping experience for today, but also for tomorrow.”

miniso2The Urban Supercentre also expands the third-party retailers and brands integrated into the store. On top of a renovated McDonald’s – a long-time presence in many Walmart locations across Canada – the store also features food from Freshii and Naoki Sushi, as well as licensed locations from The Party Shop, The UPS Store and Japanese home and fashion retailer Miniso. Walmart believes these licensees reflect emerging trends with consumers, with Bonner saying The Party Shop, for example, represents a category that is “a key shopping trip” for Walmart customers, especially those with children.

The store also features two dedicated nursing rooms and a redesigned toy section, as well as a “community hub” with seating and a board with local news, events and activities.

img-20190518-100543The grocery section – a category where Walmart has been driving increased competition in Canada – has been renamed Fresh Market and redesigned with wood panel treatments and theatre lighting to give it “a market look and feel.” The area also puts the emphasis on the produce section, which also carries organic food options and only Canadian meat and seafood products.

Walmart plans to launch another new Supercentre Concept in Thornhill, Ont., just north of Toronto, next year. Bonner said several of the concepts within the new Urban Supercentre “are applicable in all stores,” and consumer feedback will dictate which of them are expanded to other locations and when.

“Our customers look to us to make things faster, easier and more convenient,” Bonner said. “Our job is to respond not just with innovation built for today, but also to experiment with innovation to help them in the future.”